— By GREG WEBB
With every new spring-summer time frame, Aledo Athletic Director Tim Buchanan faces the unenviable task of taking stock of his coaching staff and, with the Aledo ISD administration, finding the puzzle pieces to fill needs in coaching and teaching ranks.
Obviously, Buchanan is not alone in the venture — virtually all ADs everywhere face the prospect of getting the best fits for each of the vacant spots, but it does not make the task any more palatable just because he has a lot of company.
Finding new and appropriate Aledo ISD coaching personnel for the 2013-14 school year was a comparatively moderate task versus some other school years for the director and head football coach who is entering his 21st year at Aledo, but it was not without some measure of separation anxiety.
“Losing [girl’s varsity basketball coach] Rusty Johnson was a double whammy,” Buchanan said of the only head coach to leave the ranks. “I lost a good friend and a good coach.”
Johnson made his exit in the spring to take the helm of the girl’s basketball program at Northwest High School. Citing the tough move for family considerations, Johnson left the Aledo program in good shape, elevating the Ladycats to state-playoff calibre in the 2012-13 season.
With Johnson’s other coaching assignment at Aledo including an assistant’s slot on the football staff, Buchanan could easily have described the departure as a triple whammy.
But as Aledo has historically been prone to do, they have replaced quality with quality.
Mike Pinkerton has picked up the whistle for the Ladycats, coming to Aledo from current district opponent Granbury, who gave the Aledo cagers plenty of opposition in their three matches last season.
“Mike has a very good resume,” Buchanan said of Pinkerton. “He’s never been a head girls basketball coach, but he has been a head coach (track), and understands what it takes to lead a program.
“Mike has been at Granbury as Leta Andrew’s first assistant coach for several years, and has been to her like Steve Wood has been for me, [an integral coach in the program].”
Coach Andrews, dubbed the “nation’s winningest coach,” has depended on Pinkerton at a high level in the Lady Pirates’ program, in both game preparation and in-game coaching, learning much about running a basketball program in the process.
Coincidently, Pinkerton has a past connection to Aledo’s former coach beyond just coaching in the same district.
“I didn’t know it until the second interview phase [with Pinkerton], but he and Rusty went to Grandview High School together,” Buchanan said. “Rusty went on to play basketball in college and Mike was a collegiate track athlete.”
Aledo hopes the associative parallels will continue, as Pinkerton takes over a talented Ladycats team for the 2013-14 season.
While fortunate that only one head coaching slot needed filling, Aledo had other areas to address in the assistant coaching ranks. And while Buchanan will net one less football coach with Johnson’s departure, he is happy with the finds he made with other replacements.
“We lost a couple of varsity assistants and a junior varsity assistant in football,” he said. “But we picked up some good coaches, a couple who are returning to Aledo.”
Assistant Greg Wright retired and will be replaced by Billy Mathis.
“Billy played for me during my first three years at Aledo,” Coach Buck said. “He had also previously coached for us a few years and went to work in the oil and gas business for a while.
“He eventually got back into coaching and has been the offensive coordinator at Godley the past couple of years under Randy Brawner (who also used to coach at Aledo). Part of the reason Billy rejoined us was he wanted to come back home.”
Blake Rosson retired from coaching and Aledo replaced the assistant football spot with Rocky Jones, another making a return trek to Aledo after a stint earlier in his coaching career. Rocky previously coached the Bearcats for two years (1999-2001) and is the older brother of Robby Jones, Aledo’s co-offensive coordinator.
Jerrod Crawford, another headed to the private sector to make a living, is the other football assistant position Aledo had to replace.
“We replaced Jerrod with Brad McCone,” Buchanan said, “who comes to Aledo after a couple of years at Everman. Brad was a long-time head coach at Crowley before that.”
The perpetual high level of Aledo’s football program demands the requisite of solid coaching to impart the skills and discipline that keeps the Bearcats collecting district championships, and playing into November-December postseason brackets.
Holding that high standard of instruction is paramount in Buchanan’s approach to restaffing and he feels like the new hires meet the criteria.
“We lost some good coaches and good people, in every respect,” he said. “But with the people we were able to bring in, I really feel like we improved our coaching staff, in part because this is where they want to be.
“All of our new hires, especially the football assistants, are very excited about being here, and coaching football here. Coach Wood is really excited too, because two of the assistants coming in are defensive coaches.”
Buchanan had some other areas to address in the assistant ranks, but was able to fill the vacancy with an existing AISD teacher-coach.
“Barbara Russell, who has been coaching varsity tennis for us, has decided to get out of coaching, but will stay on at Aledo as a teacher,” he said. “Sally Joslin will be coming up from McCall Elementary to assist Karl Richter with tennis.
“Russell and Coach Richter have kind of tag-teamed the tennis in the past, with both coaching JV and varsity, so Coach Joslin will be a big help to him instructing our tennis players and running that program.”
Despite the sometimes-tedious task of filling all of the necessary slots and, on occasion, having to absorb net losses of resources in some areas due to the mix of multiple roles in coaching, Buchanan remains positive and thankful for the quality of educators and instructors linked to the athletic department.
“Looking ahead to the coming school year, I am excited about working with our new hires and the staff we already have here,” he said. “We’ve been very fortunate at Aledo to have really good teachers who are also good coaches — and with most of those staying with our school district a long time.”